A new report by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency shows -- despite our best efforts -- we're still trashing too many recyclable materials.
The study looked at what Minnesotans were putting in the garbage and how much. While the agency found less paper and glass in the waste stream, it found larger amounts of plastics than it did when it last conducted the study in 2000.
Organics, described as food scraps, food-soiled paper products and other compostable materials, make up about a third of the waste stream. It's a problem that has long been on Hennepin County's radar.
"I'd say the county has been working on growing the organics program in the last 10 to 12 years," said Hennepin County Environmental Educator Angie Timmons. "It takes time to build up those programs and build up the capacity."
Timmons said the county is pushing for organics to be added to residential and business recycling programs, offering grants to help with setup. About 75 percent of the school districts in Hennepin County have organics recycling.
Three years ago, Champlin-Brooklyn Park Academy, Jackson Middle School and Oxbow Creek Elementary received a county grant to start an organics recycling program. The schools saw benefits right away.
"Within the first two weeks we went from 18 bags of trash in our lunch rooms between the two cafeterias down to two," said Denise Schnabel, curriculum integrator at Champlin-Brooklyn Park Academy. "It's absolutely worth it."
In addition to offering incentives to kickstart organics recycling, the county is also looking at ways to handle an influx of organic materials coming in for recycling.
"You can collect the material but you need places to deliver it to," said Timmons. "That's what we've been also working on to build that infrastructure for people to use those services."
If you are interested in recycling organics, you can take them to Hennepin County's recycling center in Brooklyn Park. You can also call your waste hauler or city to let them know you would like them to start such a program.
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